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News Link • Philosophy: Socialism

The Jewish Experiments in Voluntary Communism


Socialism and Zionism: Matching ideologies?

The ideas of newly born 19th-century socialism were appealing to many Jews in Europe at the time. It promised them equality, reassurance of the secularization spreading in the European Jewish society and, of course, the promise of a better future. When Zionism rose to prominence in the Jewish world, many thought socialism and Zionism were a perfect match. The mass immigration to Ottoman (and then British) Palestine would create an opportunity to build a utopian socialist society from scratch, without the institutional barriers in Europe. Anti-semitism, harsh treatment of socialist revolutionaries, and sometimes even rejections from local socialist movements drove many Jews (mostly from Russia) to emigrate.

Many Kibbutzim tried to fully implement Marxist theory on a small scale.

Historically, socialism has usually been enforced by a revolutionary or democratic government. But this was impossible as Israel was controlled by foreign powers. So a voluntary alternative was suggested: new immigrants would settle on land bought by the Jewish National Fund (which was devoted to buying land for present and future Jewish settlement) and establish a commune based on agriculture. The first attempt took place in 1910, when a group of eight men and two women settled in the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, now "Degania Alef" in northern Israel.

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